Frank L. Douglas of Safe Haven Dialogues on Reframing Discrimination and Inclusion

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 06-20-24

In this episode of “People Solve Problems,” Jamie Flinchbaugh hosts Frank L. Douglas, CEO of Safe Haven Dialogues. Frank brings a wealth of experience as a former Executive Vice President and Board Member of Aventis, now Sanofi, and shares insights from his storied career in the pharmaceutical industry and beyond. Currently, Frank leads Safe Haven Dialogues, an organization dedicated to addressing issues of discrimination and conflict through their innovative Reframing Methodology.

Frank discusses his recent book, “Until You Walk in My Shoes: A Reframing Methodology to Overcome Systematic Discrimination,” which offers a unique approach to tackling discrimination and fostering inclusion. He shares a compelling story from his tenure as the Global Head of Research and Development for Marion Merrell Dow, which was acquired by Hoechst AG and later merged with Rhône-Poulenc Rorer to form Aventis. Faced with the challenging task of merging pipelines and downsizing, Frank chose a collaborative approach, involving the heads of research from the merging companies to set evaluation criteria together. This method ensured that decisions were made fairly and transparently, emphasizing the importance of shared criteria and collaborative decision-making.

One of the central themes Frank explores is the concept of reframing. He recounts a personal experience at Xerox, where he faced discrimination early in his career. Initially frustrated by being overlooked for projects, Frank realized that reframing his approach—focusing on getting assigned to a good project rather than merely highlighting discrimination—could lead to more productive outcomes. This insight laid the foundation for the Reframing Methodology he advocates through Safe Haven Dialogues, where the focus shifts from individual grievances to finding solutions that benefit the broader team or organization.

Jamie and Frank also discuss the broader implications of this methodology in organizational settings. Frank highlights the critical roles of equity and inclusion in any organization. By examining the culture through the lenses of equity (values and principles) and inclusion (behaviors and actions), organizations can identify and address disparities more effectively. Frank emphasizes the importance of understanding the aspirational culture (what the organization strives to be), the actual culture (what is practiced), and the experienced culture (what individuals feel).

Their discussion also touches on the challenges of implementing these concepts in practice. Frank acknowledges that while leaders can set aspirational cultures, the real impact often comes from frontline managers who shape the day-to-day experiences of employees. Therefore, addressing issues at the experiential level is crucial for achieving equitable outcomes.

Throughout the episode, Frank’s passion for empowering individuals and fostering inclusive environments is evident. He provides practical insights and actionable strategies for leaders and individuals alike to reframe challenges and work towards more equitable solutions. His stories and examples illustrate the power of collaborative problem solving and the importance of aligning personal and organizational goals.

To learn more about Frank L. Douglas and his work, visit Connect with Frank on LinkedIn Additionally, you can find his book, “Until You Walk in My Shoes: A Reframing Methodology to Overcome Systematic Discrimination,” on Amazon.

This episode of “People Solve Problems” is a must-listen for anyone interested in leadership, DEI, and practical solutions to organizational inclusion challenges. Through engaging stories and thoughtful discussion, Jamie and Frank provide valuable perspectives on how to navigate and overcome complex issues in today’s workplaces.